Arogbonlo Israel and Enenche Aisha
It's no longer news that Nigeria has had a number of footballing greats; from the dancing feet of the super talented Austin ‘Jay-Jay’ Okocha, to the drag feet roulette of the two times African footballer of the year – Kanu Nwankwo, the heroics of Emmanuel Amuneke at the Nations Cup and Olympics, to the fleet foot of one the greatest African wingers Finidi George.
With a population of over 190 million and over half of its individuals actively interested in the game, Nigeria is filled with so much talent – such that a trip across rural and urban areas will open scouts to one of the most vibrant grassroots stars in the world.
There are over a million potential players with immense ability – hoping for a break into the big leagues; and thanks to the internet age, players now have better access to information on how to hone their skills to become better footballers.
The need to improve the quality of footballers across the country has led to the rise of several football academies springing up – in a bid to target the grassroots level where talents are identified and groomed to global stars.
Grassroots football in Nigeria however, has had its ups and downs – battling different grey areas as investment in the sector pales in comparison to investment in sports by their European counterparts. This is due to issues around funding, recognition, scouting and management, availability of quality playing turfs and transition capacity of shareholders in the sector.
In the world of sports today, the worth of a player is highlighted by how they are able to transit from the grassroots scene to the international football quarters.
As a grassroots football based platform, SGH Sports
Academy, has spread its methodology all over the Alimosho area of Lagos in search foro talents that can be groomed and developed into the next global star, promoting its core values and providing the right environment for nurturing of these talents.
The SGH Academy which was established in Nigeria in 2010 at Egbeda Akowonjo, Alimosho; where it is creating platforms to bolster the development of grassroots football in Lagos.
Catering for players between 3-18 years old, the academy has an overall aim to take young lads from cradle and expose them to the world of football with quality education and social responsibility. In 10 years of its existence in Nigeria, the academy has expanded to specific areas in Alimosho to better service the Nigerian market.
The academy has won many trophies with the most recent one tagged Segun Odegbami Wasimi summer soccer Championship held in 2019. There, SGH Academy won U10, U15 and senior category.
Spreading its tentacles abroad, the academy is currently in partnership with some notable football agents such as Alim Olumarou from Kigali, Rwanda, Love Kestelot from Brazil, and Abdulhakeem Akingbade with Serbian football league.
"My inspiration to this project started from my desires to take children out of the street; to become better persons in the nearest future. I feel football being a game I love with strong passion, so, I decided to have an academy, which I believe will cut across everywhere in Alimosho Federal constituency Lagos, Nigeria. Alimosho being one of the largest in Nigeria and Africa, is a good place to begin this scouting game with" said Temitayo Bakare, Chairman of SGH Academy in Lagos.
With plans to expand across Nigeria, gathering the best players from around the country through their numerous scouting programs and try-outs, SGH Academy is making efforts towards altering Nigeria’s football landscape for the better. This is a unique opportunity for Nigerian youth to receive the methodology and values from coaches with one of the biggest grassroots football clubs in Nigeria.
There is a need to establish channels where undiscovered talents can be harnessed to highlight Nigeria as the football nation it is. Nigeria must create solid platforms to discover and train young talents, while exposing the future stars to the business of football as a profession.
Recently, SGH Academy organised a scouting game at Alade stadium in Alimosho area of Lagos where three players were shortlisted by two of the aforementioned foreign agents. The names of the three shortlisted players are Ezekulie Martins, Ajayi Opeyemi, and Olanire Abiodun.
Some of the beneficiaries who spoke to our reporter after the event described the exercise as well delivered.
One of the players who identified herself as Nwanchukwu Ada described the scouting game as one of its kind, urging the federal government to give more prominence to grassroots football.
Another player who is the captain of the SGH Academy, Jacobs Dunga said: "Wow...we started from the scratch, and now we are actualising our goals of which this is the very first of the scouting exercise, and we have many more to come. We can count three to five scout agents from abroad, and this exercise is open to the general public as you can see."
On the assessment of the scouting game, a football agent in partnership with Serbian football league, who identified himself as AbdulHakeem Akingbade Taiwo said: "Doing this, I want to believe developmental football has to do with grassroots by coming to communities that are not yet well developed; to bring in the good talent in the youth then try to collaborate with other nations registered scout agents in order to showcase their talents abroad. For me, it's a good one, and this in turn, will give us a good result in another ten years."